Friday, 31 August 2012

More Atheism+ stuff

Now that I think about it, I was a little wishy-washy when it comes to whether I would call myself a follower of Atheism+ and joining the movement.

I think that I would be something of a "fellow traveller" at the moment because the ideals that were laid out are ones that I either agree with or can agree with, but that is because the moderate movement hold broad, generalised views.

What concerns me the most about Atheism+ is that it's a product that will be heavily influenced by FreethoughtBlogs. And that concerns me. FtB has shown itself to be rather dogmatic when it comes to certain social issues.

For example, look at what happened with thunderf00t. He was invited to join FtB, and when he did he - to quote PZ Myers - "wrote during the short week he was here was incoherent, unprofessional rages against feminism and the whole network he was on".

(By the way, it seems at the time I write this you can still access his now defunct blog on the network.)

I don't know whether they see it like that but thunderf00t being kicked off of FtB was seen by those outside of the network as a silencing of dissent. Rather ironic when you consider the whole network was apparently founded because of censorship on the part of National Geographic who bought out the ScienceBlogs network. Although whether that reason reflects reality remains to be seen.

While I knew most of the big name bloggers there were pro-Watson during Elevatorgate, up until that point I had never really expected to see dissent, no matter how badly written, from a position to be censored on a website that was apparently founded on anti-censorship.

My last post on Atheism+ worked on the assumption that the moderate branch of the organisation would not create an orthodoxy. The problem is that Atheism+ will be formed mainly from regular readers/commenters on FtB. And considering that they are from a site that has an underlying set of unquestionable beliefs there is a very real possibility that Atheism+ will also adopt a party line that one is required to follow.

Looking at the comments on this post by Greta Christina you can see noelplum99 having his positions misrepresented by others. The word "privilege" is used a few times. If you don't want to read the comment thread, you can watch this video by BigLundi
who goes through the thread for you.

Looking at some of the threads from the A+ forums (yes, they have forums now) some of the comments already seem to show an insular view, this is despite the fact that nobody actually knows what the more detailed position is for the more moderate movement on the broad topics I mentioned in my last post.

To quote the poster BillHaines:

An aggressive group would've banned you already. Unorganized is to be expected; we're like three days old here, give us a break. You're either with us or -- why are you here? Inappropriate is in the eye of the beholder -- and as JM put it, "I just want a space where atheists with a shared interest in social justice can actually discuss it and get stuff done. You are free to form your own groups or continue taking part in whatever atheist community will have you. You can even come and civilly take part in our discussions! But we don’t need to tolerate the intolerant within our own space." So...
(Bolding mine)

This is a comment directed at someone making a suggestion about the name. How dare the user Mefune question the validity of the name? The other question is if Mefune had posted this question later on, when the site became more organised, would he have been banned?

This issue on diversity of opinion was brought up by the user surreptitious57 who made the perfectly valid point that as a movement becomes more diverse there are going to be more people who disagree with positions. The fact that a mod (BillHaines) doesn't seem to get that is a little worrying.

But as I said, I'm not going to support a movement when I have no idea what the movement actually stands for.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


Talking about Atheism+ seems to be the thing everyone is talking about so I'm going to jump on the bandwagon and talk about it.

In essence it's supposed to be "Atheism with other things", but it's already starting to look like this isn't the case.

I would say that it looks like Jen McCreight's idea is already being co-opted by Richard Carrier, but that appearance is probably a little deceiving. I can understand the idea that it's being co-opted, FreethoughtBlogs seems to have created their own little clique within the atheist community and I think that the idea that we are seeing a co-option arises from that.

If we accept the idea that Atheism+ is supposed to be a "new wave" like the waves of feminism, it would suggest that we are seeing the formation of two groups within Atheism+, the mainstream and the radical. McCreight being the founder of the mainstream and Carrier the embodiment of the radical.

Jen McCreight is basically the founder of this wave, being the one to make the suggestion to start a new wave and doing something about it. The things that McCreight would like this movement to do is outlined in the post Atheism+: It's time to walk the walk. The items listed would be:

To start us off, here are some issues I envision A+ addressing from a secular, skeptical perspective:

  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Transphobia
  • Ableism
  • Classism
  • Ageism
  • Neurotypicalism
  • Animal welfare
  • Environmental issues
  • Political issues (Health care, crime, drug laws)
What we would see here is  This would definitely become more pronounced for the last three points and may possibly include "Neurotypicalism", but that's because I don't know what exactly the ideal would be there. Especially considering the issue between high- and low- functioning individuals.

But the basic idea here is also education; to try and get people to change their minds and improve things that way. It also strives to be inclusive (Point 6) but holds a firmer line against those who do not fit in with the values in question.

Carrier's "living document" is here. Reading through what he wrote, and also his comments to criticism indicate that he's the more radical one. The original version of that document had the conclusion:

In the meantime, I call everyone now to pick sides (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or are you going to stick with Atheism Less? Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid.
Which has since been changed to (as of 30/8/12):

In the meantime, are you an atheist? Do you identify as an atheist? Then I call upon you to pick sides within our movement (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you with the Atheism+ movement, or do you at least cheer and approve it’s values and aims (since you don’t have to label yourself), or are you going to stick with Atheism Less and its sexism and cruelty and irrationality? Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid.
Now when you look at it, there is no real difference between the two comments. What we are seeing here is the in-group/out-group bias in play. In a rather ironic twist it's the same bias that has been levelled at FreethoughtBlogs. But good thing everyone else there is pretty supportive of the concept?

It's also poisoning the well, by automatically assuming that people who don't agree with Atheism+ are sexist and cruel. Good thing that Carrier doesn't have a thing for logical fallacies. Unless you happen to read the comments and see that the section "We believe in being reasonable" once read:

Which means anyone who makes a fallacious argument and, when shown that they have, does not admit it, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and kicked out, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.
It now reads (as of 30/8/12):

This means, first, that we believe in being logical and rational in forming beliefs and opinions. Which means anyone who makes a fallacious argument on any matter of real importance and, when shown that they have, does not admit it (when given the chance), is probably not one of us, and if they persist in doing that, is definitely not one of us, and is to be marginalized and disowned, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.
(I'm showing this because changes to the post aren't mentioned)

Just looking at these changes suggest that while Carrier has toned down the rhetoric, probably because of this tweet he still wants to excise those that he doesn't like.

But this reminds me of certain radical feminists, like Gail Dines, or Twisty Faster. Carrier is arguing for control. Carrier's Atheism+ is designed to control people and remove those who refuse to toe the line.

So that's basically it. What we are seeing is two different groups covered by the same organisation. In the end though we're seeing more of Carrier's views being discussed and that is influencing people on their decision to join the group.

I however am not going to claim that I belong to Atheist+ because they're clearly continentalist. Also, I don't think I need to attach a rather strange label to myself. I will be one of those people that supports the same ideals but won't adopt that label.

Updated: More thoughts on the idea.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Indefinite Detention

The Greens are planning on introducing legislation that will allow refugees to appeal negative ASIO determinations. This would be introduced when the Senate resumes next month.

ASIO, for the people who don't know is basically Australia's version of MI5.

At the same time Human Rights Lawyer David Manne has lodged a papers in the High Court challenging the same problem.

As it stands at the moment an asylum seeker can have a successful asylum application meaning they get refugee status, but if ASIO says "no" they can't be let into the community, or in the case of a Tamil refugee by the name of Ranjini be taken into detention after living in the community for about a year.

Now what happens is that we have people who have been determined to be refugees under the Refugee Convention, meaning they are permitted to stay in this country, but because of the negative ASIO finding cannot go into the community. It seems that all these people know is that they have a negative finding with no way of appealing.

According to the Greens there are 57 people in this situation, some of them children, who have been found guilty of "something" in a manner that resembles Kafka's The Trial. This country already has a less then stellar record when it comes to refugee issues, and this doesn't do much to help.

ASIO has already caused problems by increasing the time these people can spend in detention, and we've already seen how their lack of transparency have already caused problems, such as the case of Sheik Mansour Leghaei, who ended up being deported after an adverse check by ASIO after a long legal fight. This was despite support from various members of government, religious figures and other prominent people.

The problem is that I get the feeling that Manne's attempt will probably result in similar results to Leghaei's trial. Some of the things we ended up learning in Leghaei's case was that he didn't have a right to learn why he failed his check, that some of the possible evidence against him is either made up by others or by ASIO itself and that proceedural fairness and natural justice don't matter when it comes to national security. I think the most shocking thing to come out of that case was that apparently nobody had a right to overrule ASIO.

If you believe the more nationalistic Australians one of the qualities that makes up "Australian-ness" is "a fair go". But looking at what ASIO is doing it seems that this doesn't matter when it comes to people who come to this country to either escape danger or improve our society, or improve relations within it simple because they are foreign.

And I think that has to change.